• Byron Bay, July 24th

    We had a long drive up from Arrawarra to Byron Bay, through flat flood-plains of a wide river-valley that reminded Marjolein of home, except for the extensive sugar-cane plantations. It all had a slightly run-down air, so we broke off towards the coast and stopped in Iluka. Iluka is a little town buried in the coastal rainforest of Bundjalung National Park. It was a different side of Oz, tiny and very quiet with one fast-food thai/fish and chip shop and a local supermarket that sold everything from olives to fish-bait. We had horrible coffee in the town, stocked up on groceries and had a very nice walk in the national park.

    Back on the road to Byron Bay the countryside started to look like New England, but with all the pine trees turned upside down: one of the native trees resembles a Christmas tree that has had all it’s needles blown vertical: Marjolein thought it looked as if someone had frightened it. We were all glad to finally find Byron Bay and got our first look at it by stopping at the headland above it and admiring the enormous beach and crashing waves, adorned as always by surfers. Aussies surf like Dutch people ride bikes, but cover less distance… The town itself was immediately attractive – it had a laid-back San Francisco atmosphere with a mixture of expensive surf-shops, crystal healing wellness centres and back-packer everything. They also serve the first decent espresso we have managed to score in Oz, i.e. it is actually as good as, or in one remarkable case better, than what we make at home. We fumbled about a bit finding a camper-park and settled in just in time for the heavens to open and hammer our little home with rain.

    The next day cleared up rapidly and we walked into town, downed mega espressos and then marched almost 3k in brilliant sunshine, up through rainforest (more NP and World Heritage to boot) to the Byron Bay lighthouse and the most easterly point of Australia. The toads complained at various points, but also enjoyed themselves and did the whole long walk up and down the steep headland pretty well. The gods smiled on them and us and conjured up an ice-cream vendor at the top of the climb. Similar gods also produced a pair of whales to observe from the most easterly point. We waddled back to town, scored a late lunch from a gluten-free coffee shop that revived me with “Immune Booster” juice: apple, ginger and carrot, a mixture I am definitely going to try at home. Refreshed and revived, but with the little monsters showing signs of wear we trundled around town, found Marjolein a nice bathing-suit to replace the one lost with our luggage and booked a whale watching trip for the next day. I signed waivers for pretty much anything other than active attempts to murder us and we shall be venturing out into a briny infested with enormous powerful creatures in something that is literally a stretched out Zodiak rubber-boat. It is a far cry from the floating gin-palace that we went in at Nelson Bay, but very appropriate to the way of life here. If there are no further entries after this…

  • Arrawarra, July 21th

    After our stay in Shoal Bay we felt it was time to search for a place that was as nice but a bit warmer. On our way out we decided to visit Oakdale Farm, jut on the beginning of the side road from the Pacific Highway to Nelson Bay. We didn’t know what to expect exactly, but it turned out to be really really nice.

    The friendly people there combined a normal farm with some of the Australian wildlife, and the kids could feed all of them. It started with some really cheeky goats and sheep, that really went for the animal treats in the kids’ paper bags. The kids were actually already pretty impressed with that. But after walking on we discovered the fields where the kangaroos and wallabies lived, emu and ostrich cages, cockatoos that were not friendly enough to be free, but that were smart and curious enough to follow you around and to reply to greetings and waves with a ‘hello’ or a wave back. There was a dingo to look at, they were allowed to pat the koala’s and even could milk a cow. Or at least attempt to milk her…

    All of this lead to some really nice pictures, that I will put in a separate album on the photo page.

    We got a recommendation for Forster as a pleasant place to stay, so we had booked a place there for two nights. Unfortunately the next day it rained all day – but if we had to have a rainy day anyway Forster was a better place than many others because it had an inside playground at walking distance and a big shopping mall. So the kids still had great time and we had time to buy some necessities.

    And yes, necessities included the latest Harry Potter, which I bought from a wizard in the bookshop there the morning we departed. This will be a short post, because I am only at page 101 and still have at least 400 pages to go 😉

    Other than that today was a driving day. We decided to really make a jump northwards in search for better weather, so we’ve driven more than 300 km today. Since the average rate is more or less 65 km per hour on the roads here, with our big campervan, that means quite a drive. The park we landed in seems really nice though. We were greeted by some wild wallabies next to the driveway, they had a jumping pillow that entertained the kids for the first hour, three heated pools with water slides and border the beach. People wear short sleeved t-shirts here, which is a good sign too; apparently the feeling of warmer weather is not entirely in our hopeful imagination!

    The saga of the missing luggage still continues though. We extended our stay in the last two holiday parks so they could deliver the bag they found, but that seems to be beyond their current capabilities too. They don’t pick up the phone, we already have worked our way through 4 phone numbers and mobile phone numbers so we will have to wait till they call us again. I might try to invent a swimming costume though, since the shops are a few kilometres away and my own swimming gear is in one of the still missing bags.

    First I have to finish Harry though 😉
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  • Shoal Bay, July 18th

    Since the lost luggage people said they’d deliver another bag to us we decided to stay here one day longer. Tomorrow we will head of to Forster, another 150 or so kilometres up north.

    The bag was not delivered; they’ll retry tomorrow at the holiday park we just booked. Appearantly one of the bags of our boys is at my cousins place in Sydney; we will retrieve that one on our way back. Another boys bag will be delivered tomorrow, which means that we still miss the luggage of one boy and the bag with our remaining cloths, my toilet bag and all chargers in it. I do miss my tripod and I was looking forward to trying out my new lenses, but I fear I might have to replace those. Here, if I can find a specialized shop with the right equipment, or at home after I return.

    Today was very cold the locals complained: about 15 degrees and with a still burning sun so for us it merely means we have to zip our coats up. There was a stiff wind though, so we were happy that we took the whale spotting cruise yesterday.

    We spent this day walking and climbing. First to the left hand side of the bay, where we climbed the head. Than we walked back over the beach to the other side of the bay, where we climbed Tomaralee Head; a 550 m high hill so that was quite a steep climb. Falco got tired, but since we walked and climbed for about 4 hours we felt he had a right to complain a bit in the end. Food and drink helped restore the bad mood quite effectively.

    Walking on the beach was nice enough in itself, but at one point we actually had a dolphin swimming past, just a few metres away, which was an unexpected and appreciated event.

    Tim will try the camp BBQ in a few minutes, to make us steak sandwiches. We will make them the Dutch way, which means smaller than the Australian sandwiches and without beetroot (which I like, but the kids don’t). Though big, there sandwiches are often nice and healthy. I ordered a salad today, which was on the menu too, and it turned out to be a salad sandwich too, which tasted nice and felt good. I now know I still fit my own jeans (they were in the delivered bag), so I’ll try to keep it that way 😉

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  • Our first day

    Yesterday was a very rainy day. Made us feel right at home ;). We were still pretty whacked, but we felt that going out and doing things was the best way to get into the Australian time-zone. So we went to Darling Harbour where the Aquarium is. Unfortunately by the time we got there the rows were allready pretty long; it is a school holiday here so everybody is entertaining their kids and on a rainy day the options are limited.

    So we decided to go to the Australian Maritime museum first and had quite a nice time. After an extensive exploration of the museum Tim decided to take the boys on a tour through a submarine and a big warship (Destroyer) while my aunt and I sat outside (on the dry moments) to talk and catch up. We had sandwiches with us, so lunch was easy.

    Afterwards the rows seem to be slightly less long, so we lined up for the Aquarium. I like the fact that people can actually touch some animals and plants there. The tunnels under the seal and the shark section were really impressive too. Kids had a whale of a time till they suddenly started to drop off around four. Falco fell asleep first, but Daniel didn’t last any longer than the monorail and we still had to take two more buses afterwards. We did manage to get home safe; Australians are really helpfull and give directions, get up from chairs and assist you in getting through the gates if they see you need some help.

    We made some nice pics, which I will upload into an album at the photo page (see tabs in the header of the page).

    At one I was brutally woken up by Falco who first cried because of hurting legs (growing pains we assume, the other kids had them too at this age). An hour later he got ill, so I was up even earlier than yesterday, instead of slowly getting a more apropriate schedule in place. After creating a lot of additional laundry and getting a nice warm bath Falco seemed a lot better. The weather improved too, so we decided to go to the Zoo where we had a great time. We took the Ferry to the centre of Sydney, where we are having coffee now in a place that has wifi. As soon as possible I’ll upload some pictures into a sydney album too – I can’t do it directly because we don’t have cables (or chargers/loaders yet) since those were all in the luggage.

    We haven’t heard anything from the lost luggage people, which is worrying. They don’t even pick up the phone, which is even more worrying…

  • More Whales

    Spotting the whales should be possible. The humpback whale travels up the coast more or less together with us and ends in the Hervey Bay area in August. We’ll see where we will do a whale-spotting-cruise (though they seem to pass closest to Byron Bay) but if you want to see them without leaving terra firma, you’re best of trying from:

    • Cape Byron state recreation Area near Byron Bay
    • Broken Head Nature Reserve near Byron Bay
    • Solitary Islands Marine Park north of Coffs Harbour
    • Hat Head National Park near Kempsey
    • Crowdy Head National Park near Taree
    • Tomaree National Park near Nelson Bay
    • Barrenjoey Headland in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park near Sydney
    • North Head in Sydney Harbour National Park

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  • Fraser Island

    According to the friends we mentioned yesterday, we really have to visit Fraser Island. It’s the worlds largest sand island (over 120 kilometres long and over 30 kilometres across at its widest point) and actually has rainforest growing on the sand. Of course there are a lot of dunes and weird sand forms, but also beautifull lakes and lots and lots of animals and plants. Including wild dingo’s, who can be quite agressive, so you do have to watch your kids. Appearantly in 2001 a 9 year old boy was killed by them.

    Swimming will probabely not be high in the list. Though about 200 km north (=warmer) from Brisbane where it is a nice and comfortable 20 degrees at the moment, the climate is more temperate since it is an island. The water on the island is always cold anyway, and the sea is a breeding ground for sharks.

  • Blue Mountains

    The aunt that called lives in the Blue Mountains. We had allready planned to stay in Sydney for a few days, in the house of my uncle. We arrive Saturday July 8th 18.50 from Singapore and will stay in my uncle’s house till Thursday. She’ll stay there too for at least a day. Thursday we will pick up the camper and travel upwards to the Blue Mountains where she lives. It is a beautifull area with lots of things to see and do (Dutch readers can get more info here), so we will stay a few days. End of the weekend we will travel to the north, along the coast because we still want to see whales!

  • Play ground

    If Mildura is too far for one day, we can have a halfway stop in Berri. Most famous thing in Berri is a big free playground and it might be a good idea to provide the kids with some controlled climb-and-do things by then.

    It is also nice to ensure that there are options, that we can decide on the spur of the moment depending on what we feel like, how much time we still have and what the weather is like. If it is cold, wet and miserable we probabely want to drive on to Mildura and going to one of the swimming pool.

  • Martian Landscape

    As you can see on the map, the first big town on the ‘inland route’ between Adelaid and Sydney is Mildura. I’ts about 5 hours drive from Adelaide so that would make a nice first stop after a travelling day. It is located next to a river (the Murray), so there are bound to be some activities with boats. And it’s pretty close to the Perry Sandhils, appearantly a known background for lots of movies:

    The Perry Sandhills are 10 hectares of striking red sandhills that were once part of the huge Willandra Lakes System and date back to an ice age 40,000 years ago. Evidence suggests that the Barkindji people lived here since ancient times and bones of mega fauna found in the sandhills also reveal that huge kangaroos, wombats and other creatures once roamed the region. Located 5 kilometres from Wentworth near Mildura.

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  • Whales

    Appearantly June-July are great months for whale spotting. The cruises from Sydney are quite expensive and don’t allow for kids under 5 though, and our youngest will be 5 this August.

    But Jervis Bay looks like an even better deal. They have a range of nice cruises with family fees *and* younger children allowed. There is a whale spotting cruise with guaranteed whales in June and July. And we appearantly also can get 10% discount if we mention Jervis Bay Tourism.

    It seens a really nice area to spend some time with the kids. Originally we thought about doing this stretch last, but in view of this piece of information we might plan this earlier. Appearantly it is about 190 km south of Sydney, a three hour ride. Back to the maps…